I first went to the NYC Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn over the summer. It was a great activity for a warm rainy day. Even though you can easily see the whole museum in one visit, I had no qualms about going back with a friend last weekend.
You can see everything in about three hours. It is a great museum for kids and there will be plenty of them on a weekend. The hands-on activities will keep children occupied while there is still plenty of history text for adults. Admission to the museum is $7/adult and often has free hours throughout the year.
The NYC Transit Museum is inside an inactive but still working subway station. The third rail is still live but trains no longer stop at the platform. The entire museum is underground. The entrance to the museum looks like a subway stop. The history & exhibits are all underground. And their collection of vintage trains are on the lower level actually on tracks. With additional information on the subway platform.
One of the best parts of the vintage trains, is seeing the vintage ads and maps in each of the subway cars. When the subways were owned privately, there were some interesting line set-ups.
The museum begins by showing you how the tunnels were laid out and dug. Then it moves onto the power system of the subway system. This part has a lot of hands-on activities for kids. If you keep going to the back, there is a whole area about ground transportation in nyc. Including a fantastic timeline showing the change from horse & carriage to trolley to cable car to buses.
As you leave the museum, there is an area showing the change in subway turnstiles which is also very neat. The original ones were wooden. Before turnstiles, an employee would just take your ticket like at the movies.
Downstairs is where the fun is. There are a dozen vintage train cars from various years. You can read about each one. Then actually board the car and walk around.
For three Sundays in the month of December, the MTA runs some of the vintage train cars along the M line. This has been done for promotions as well (like, for Boardwalk Empire). This past December I was able to ride one of the vintage trains.
It was very neat seeing it pull up to the platform. And surprising to some people who weren’t expecting it. There is only one train, a short train at that, that runs up and down the M line. So it makes it each station (from 2nd Ave to Queensboro Plaza) about once an hour.
But when the train isn’t running, it is housed at the NYC Transit Museum. Where you can still walk in the cars, take pictures, sit on the seats, and be glad trains aren’t like that anymore.